Friday, December 30, 2016

Sewing Project Review 2016

2016 was a really weird year for me. Not a bad year, just a weird one. All year long I struggled with sewing. I either didn't have time to work on things or I lacked motivation. In some ways I felt overwhelmed since outfitting all the kids seemed like an impossible thing to do. I was irritated with most of my projects. But I kept on, bit by bit. And really, I am kinda amazed at how much I did get done. Hey! Not so bad. 

There were a few projects that stand out so for the sake of wrapping up this year, I will highlight those few:

1. My Favorite Project

This would have to be the Jedi outfit I made for Judah to wear for Halloween this year. I loved making this costume from start to finish and it gives me a happy feeling to see Judah throw his Jedi robe on after school, hop on his bike and head down the street to visit one of his friends, robe flowing in the wind. He totally owns the look. It was fun to work on something non-historical! 

2. Least Favorite Project

Well, all the undergarments. I made a crap ton of undergarments this year for both the kids and myself. It gets so entirely boring. Really! I mean, how excited can you get about the umpteenth tuck you are sewing into a white petticoat? I wasn't excited. Still, undergarments are the most important part of a correct looking impression. I still hate them. I don't want to sew another undergarment for a long time. Unless it's a corset. 

Sad thing is, the next thing I make will almost certainly be an undergarment! Grrr...

3. Most Challenging Project

Benjamin's yellow plaid dress was completely frustrating because it looked terrible when I first sewed it. I had to take it apart and redo the bodice and I hated that. I wasn't that passionate about it in the first place and I still kinda don't like the dress, but he did look cute in it, even if he did only get to wear it two or three times before he outgrew it. 

2017 projections: 
  • Cage crinoline (plan to start this in a few days)
  • 1870's undergarments (start in January)
  • 1917 outfit (will need everything. Plan to make a simple skirt/blouse/jacket ensemble)
  • 1870's day dress
  • 18th c. undergarments
  • Colored/printed regency round gown
  • Updating the kids reenacting wardrobes as needed
  • SOMETHING for SCA use!
See you in 2017!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fashions of the Gilded Age

Look! I received this gorgeous book as a gift for Christmas and I am blown away by the sheer depth of information packed within its pages. I've never done anything remotely bustle-y and have always been rather intimidated by these styles. But now I have literally hundreds of patterns to work from.

2017 will be the Year of the Bustle. I've had this image saved for a while as I love how the striped fabric dresses up what is a very simple natural form style. Doesn't it look rather Mrs. Oleson-y?

I really like the printed one as well. The self fabric scalloped trim is delightful. The scallops are echoed on the hem of the bodice, which is just darling! I can picture Caroline Ingalls wearing such a dress. I can't wait to make one of my own!

I think my 1860's corset is close enough in shape to work for this era. But I will need new petticoats, possibly a small bustle, and a new chemise, preferably sleeveless or with tiny sleeves. Goal: Complete outfit by September 2017 to wear for the Old West festival. That is definitely doable.  

Merry Christmas! May your New Year be fabulous!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Clothespin Dolls

I acquired quite a few of the old fashioned peg kind of wooden clothespins this summer, put them up and promptly forgot about them. Recently I needed some kind of new activity to keep Anne occupied, though, so I remembered the forgotten clothespins and pulled them out and showed her how to make a very simple clothespin doll, the kind without arms. She loved the resulting dolls and quickly made several of her own. Her latest were these 3, which I thought were too cute to not share!

I helped her just a little with the sewing of the top of Mary's dress and wrapping baby Jesus in some string to keep his swaddling cloth on. She carries the finished 3 dolls around in a tiny basket and sets up mini nativity scenes all over the house. It's like the Elf on the Shelf, only it's Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus popping up in unexpected places!

I made 3 dolls altogether; the first one was an angel doll made of different types of lace as a prototype for teacher gifts. Cute but not really "me". These last two are angels, to go with Anne's nativity and double as this years Christmas ornaments for me and Rose. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mid 19th Century Quilted Petticoat

I am SO glad that this is done! After Thanksgiving we all came down with a terrible cold thing. Or maybe a flu thing. It was bad. The kids bounced back after a day or two but I'm still sniffling and shuffling my way through gloomy, coldish, grey days and battling a wearisome round of fever and chills.

So. My goal was to finish the petticoat by November 30th since my first goal of getting it done by Thanksgiving wasn't accomplished. I pushed myself and got most of it done but I still had a bit of finishing to do that wasn't able to be completed til December 1st. I wanted to wear it last night to a Christmas festivity but I didn't go since I was sick.

I love this petticoat. It's warm and cozy and light and fluffy. Like wearing a comforting blanket wrapped around you all the time. Which, at this point, I need. It's made of two widths of a striped fabric I've had since before Anne was born. I am not totally sure of the fiber content. I originally thought it was a nice cotton but after quilting it for so long I really believe there is some silk content as well. It handles like silk and has that distinctive whooshy sound when you quilt that you only get from silk.

It's lined with plain white and grey striped cotton (I think I have had a thing for stripes lately. . .) and interlined with cotton batting. I quilted it on many evenings in front of the tv watching Walker, Texas Ranger (which is Malachi's new favorite tv show that he simply must watch every night from 7 to 8).

I made a short yoke to gather the lower skirt at the hip. I didn't want a ton of bulk in the waistband so this seemed like a good idea. Then the top of the yoke was gathered into waistband. The yoke isn't lined, so the seam between the lower skirt and yoke is finished with a strip of scrap fabric. The outside of the seam has a decorative band of bias cut self fabric.

The total width is about 120" and I'm happy with that. I thought it might be a bit too wide but I think it's just about right at this length. If it were shorter, I may have made it a little narrower. The hem falls at lower calf which is probably on the long side for quilted petticoats but hey, my lower legs need to stay warm, too!

I'm fitting this into the HSF "Red" challenge because the stripes on the skirt are a darkish pinkish red color. And in case that wasn't enough to bump it into a red category I used a bright red cotton for the inside seam finish. So! There ya go.

HSF info:

What the Item Is:

Mid-19th century style quilted petticoat.

The Challenge:



Outer fabric, cotton batting, cotton lining.


My own, but all rectangles!


Meant for use for Civil War reenacting but could theoretically work for 1830-1865 as the skirt silhouette is similar.



How Historically Accurate Is It?

Fairly so. The only thing I'm not sure of is the yoke - it was a last minute idea to add it and I didn't look for an original example with a yoke. :(

Hours to Complete:

Tooooooo many. There are 18 rows of quilting and each row took about an hour to do. Then the finishing work was at least 4 hours. And cutting the darn thing out and sewing the layers together before quilting took about 2.

First Worn:

Not yet; just for pictures. Hopefully I'll get a chance to wear it in a historical setting very soon!

Total Cost:

All stash stuff. If I bought new of everything I guess it would be around $40 or so.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

1856 Knitted Hood

Now that Thanksgiving is over it seems to be Christmas all around. Everywhere I look there are white twinkling lights, big wreaths tied with enormous red ribbons and, of course, there are plenty of Christmas trees! We put up our tree the day after Thanksgiving and are slowly working on getting the rest of the house, inside and out, festive for the holidays. 

I thought it would be nice to do a post about the knitted hood I finished a few weeks ago. Of course, the first sunny day we have had all week is warm enough for t shirts and shorts, not wool! But Anne wanted to dress up anyway, so we took a few pictures. She's so fun. :) 
This hood is the 1856 knitted opera hood that is so popular in reenacting circles. I got my pattern from Ephemeral Chaos and made it up just as the pattern stated, except with size 7 needles instead of the larger ones called for. This made the hood come out smaller than usual - perfect for Anne. 

I am not a fast knitter or a very good one but I appreciated how easy this hood was to make. It's all plain knitting (which does get monotonous) but it worked up warm and thick. It took about 2 weeks of knitting at night to get it done, after a false start where Anne pulled off the first four inches of knitting so she could use it as a scarf for her doll. (well, it could work well for a scarf! I can't blame her.) 

The back is pretty where it is gathered to fit the neck. I like the silhouette. It is quite flattering, at least from an 1860's point of view. 

I hope she will have occasion to wear it before Christmas - if this warmer weather holds, Christmas caroling in period attire will be an absolute must. :) 


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #10 - Heroes

I had hoped to have better photos of this project but I don't think I will get an opportunity for pictures for awhile, so these, taken early last month, will have to suffice! 

The theme for October was "Heroes". I did not choose this project to fit the challenge but I quickly realized it would work. The project? An 1860's, American Civil-War era majors double breasted frock coat. The impression is of a surgeon and I can state without hesitation that surgeons and other medical support staff were by and large unsung heroes of the war. 

In fact, historian James McPherson speculates that the availability and quality of medical care during several important campaigns directly influenced the outcome of those bitter four years. The organization of both the Northern and Southern military medical branches was complex and very political, yet undeniably critical in the successes and failures of both national armies. 

More soldiers died as a result of disease than of any other cause during the Civil War. This can be attributed to the general ignorance of the importance of sterility and personal and environmental cleanliness. However, some surgeons noticed a great improvement in the outcome of their patients treatments when they used clean instruments and the patient was kept clean.

Surgeons traveled with the army or were stationed at general hospitals where sick or wounded soldiers could be treated and convalesce. They oversaw the care of many patients, wrote reports, filled out forms, dispensed medicine and were frequently treated like crap. It amazes me how many brilliant military leaders thought very poorly of their medical staff and how hard it was for surgeons to receive very badly needed supplies, or to even have their concerns listened to!
quilted lining in progress
The Civil War saw the first African-American U.S. Army Surgeon, Alexander Augusta, and the first woman U.S. Army Surgeon, Dr. Mary Walker, who are heroes for not only their medical service but also for paving the way for African-Americans and women to receive equal status as surgeons to their white male counterparts.
tintype taken at Perryville, KY 2016

This frock coat is constructed as was common at the time with a quilted body lining, plain lining in the skirts and a padded chest. It's made of dark blue wool broadcloth with black polished cotton lining and reproduction federal brass buttons. The buttonholes are worked with silk buttonhole twist (of which I barely had enough!) The shoulder boards, designating the rank of Major, are reproductions from NJ Sekela. The placement of the buttons on the double breasted front narrows at the waist as seen in some originals. 
progress shot on a cobbled-together-dressform thingy
There's not much to say about it, although it was the biggest project I've had for quite a while. It went together with no complications and didn't even take that long. It's heavy! It was made and worn for the reenactment of the Battle of Perryville in early October of this year in Perryville, Kentucky. (Sadly I did not attend. I wish I had!)


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Princess Leia Costume for Rose

I think this is the last Halloween costume I need to make this year. I think. Fingers crossed. Anne keeps changing her mind as to what she wants to be but she keeps going back to a Fairy Princess, which is easy since we bought her a very pretty pink and silver, puffed-sleeve princess gown a few weeks ago at a second hand shop and fairy wings are a dollar at the local DT. And Malachi will be, as usual, a cowboy. 

For Rose I needed something that she can easily walk in, that she'd actually keep on (she prefers being as un-clothed as possible) and that wouldn't cost too much. While I initially thought I'd make a one-piece bunny costume with some pink wool I had on hand I came across a pattern for a crocheted Leia baby hat and I knew that Rose had to have it!

Now, this is kinda a big deal for me since I can't crochet. My great-grandma was an amazing fiber artist and tried patiently to teach me crochet when I was 11 years old. I learned how to make a long string of chain stitches and beyond that my brain turned into a hopeless puddle. I took up knitting, instead, and closed the door forever upon the mysterious world of crochet. 

But, Rose was worth the painful idea of trying again. I'd try again for her. So I got the supplies and watched a few YouTube videos on how to start a slip knot for crochet, how to do double crochet and half double crochet and adventurously began. And an hour and a half later I did have a hat! Wow. I was shocked. It's probably the easiest pattern in the world but I was so very excited about being able to complete it. The hat isn't perfect (I messed up on the final round since I was trying to count while also helping Judah with math homework) but it looks pretty much like it's supposed to, it fits Rose and she keeps it on. Win.

The dress is a cut all in one piece as  T shape, with an attached, gathered hood at the back neck opening. Very simple and very quick to make. I used a piece of fabric from one of the poly/cotton sheets I keep on hand for mock ups so there was no expense for new fabric. The belt is a stretchy white headband. 

I love grey autumn days since they are so good for taking pictures. Rose loved wearing her new costume outside, exploring the yard and the edge of the woods and playing with the cat. I can't wait to take her trick or treating on Monday. She is going to be so excited when she finds out she gets candy just for looking cute. ;)

Now that these projects are behind me I am feeling the need to slow down a bit. I have a mid-19th century style quilted petticoat cut out but I haven't started putting it together yet. Before I start anything new I want to repaint my sewing room and get things arranged better. Maybe next week. For now, I'm going to enjoy the rest of this lovely cool grey day with some good cups of coffee. Happy Halloween everyone!


Monday, October 24, 2016

Dipsy Teletubby Costume

Benjamin was a late talker. He turned 2 in May and he still wasn't talking all that much. His pediatrician wasn't overly concerned; some kids just talk later than others. But months passed and Benjamin still seemed content to communicate with two or three word phrases; sometimes just a gesture and a dimpled smile.

Then, over the summer, he discovered Teletubbies! I can't remember exactly when. I think he and Rose were driving me crazy one day (try getting much done with a 1 year old firmly grasping your legs from the back, and a 2 year old grabbing your legs from the front) so I put an episode on for them, thinking it may give me twenty minutes of peace. They both loved the show and since then it's been a daily ritual with Benjamin.
And he has started talking! Oh my goodness. He is a chatterbox now. Teletubbies may be dumb, stupid, silly, weird and all that but it has made my boy want to start talking more and that is a good thing. Actually, the shows aren't terrible at all. I've watched quite a few with my little boy. ;) And so, for Halloween, what would be better for Benjamin than a Teletubby costume?

Fleece was on sale at Joanns for 50% off so we bought a yard and a half. I used a set of Benjamins pajamas to copy a pattern for a one piece suit. It opens up the back and the hood is separate and 
fastens under the chin. This may be the first thing I've ever made him that he absolutely loves!
Gotta secure the head - thing? a bit better as it tends to want to lean forward!
It's roomy enough so he can wear a full set of clothes underneath. It's usually quite cold on Halloween so hopefully he will stay nice and warm. 

Also, I hate sewing with fleece. Never again! 


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Jedi Costume for Judah

The boys have become more particular about their Halloween costumes as they have grown older. When they were little it was easy to throw together a "good enough" outfit the day of Halloween to take them trick-or-treating. We've done a pirate, a railroad man, cowboy (multiple times! Malachi never wants to be anything else. . .) and one year they wore their 14th century clothes and cloaks and went as hobbits. Their first year they went as the 3 spirits of Christmas, which was so much fun!

This year Malachi is going again as a cowboy, little David as Darth Vader (he wanted to be the Titanic up until his birthday, but he received a Darth Vader mask and helmet as a gift and that has made his Titanic obsession fly out the window) and Judah wanted to be a Jedi.

Judah was very particular. It had to be a REAL Jedi costume. Not just something that "looked sort of like a Jedi". Judah did research all on his own and I did research and he came up with the various articles of clothing I had to make and I had to figure out how to make them.Then Judah accompanied me to shop for fabric and he picked out a linen blend for the robe and cheap, coarse, natural muslin for the tunics, obi and tabard. We got 3 yards of 60" fabric for the robe and 8.5 yards of 36" fabric for everything else, and we used every bit of it.

I've been working on it over the past week or two and today I finished the robe so I can finally say that this costume is done! It was a really fun project and I think my kid looks pretty darn awesome in it!

The trousers are simply a pair of tan corduroy pajama pants that were mine, but I was willing to sacrifice for a good cause. ;) Fortunately, my son is about the same size as I am so he can wear them without any alterations. The under-tunic has a wrap front with no fastenings; it simply overlaps across the chest. It has a high V neckline and 3/4 length sleeves and is cut on the square.

The overtunic has slightly shaped armscyes and sleeve heads but is otherwise cut on the square. It has a very large overlap in the front and the neckline is cut straight down from the shoulder to the hem, like a bathrobe. The shoulders are tucked like Obi-Wans tunic but can be let out for additional length in the sleeve/body when Judah gets bigger.

Then finally the obi (belt) goes on, which is made of 3 layers of the muslin with a layer of cotton batting to give some stability to it. It's just a wide rectangle that hooks closed in the back with hooks and eyes. The long rectangular tabard goes over the shoulders and tucks into the belt in front and back.

I had 3 yards to make the robe and was worried it wouldn't be enough material. I cut it on the square, though, so had *just* enough! It's made very much like an SCA style T-tunic, with a hood and a front opening. The hood is pleated to fit the neckline so it has a nice drape around the neck. I'm very pleased with how it came out!

To finish off the outfit Judah is wearing my winter boots and an old leather belt that is fastened in the back. We'll probably hit the thrift shops and look for a wider belt and taller boots. He also needs a blue light saber but he really doesn't want a "fake" (plastic) one. He's been studying youtube videos on how to build a realistic looking metal one. We'll see what we can do before Halloween.